Israel-Gaza war: ‘We must be kind to people, and ruthless against oppression’

Israeli Merkava tanks are positioned in the upper Galilee in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on Oct. 11, 2023. Israel appeared to be readying for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, but faces the threat of a multi-front war after also coming under rocket attack from militant groups in neighboring Lebanon and Syria. (Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas is a corrupt monster, the governing organization Hamas is a theocratic monster. The lives of Palestinian civilians frankly do not matter to anyone (including their own “leadership”), and Israel’s governing coalition is thirsting for revenge after Hamas attacked the nation Saturday.

The only thing that can help today with Israel, Palestine and Hamas’ recent atrocities— as well as Israel’s ongoing flattening of Gaza — is aggressive work within both the Jewish and Palestinian communities to humanize each other. As a Jewish activist, I am frequently met with surprise and shock from Muslim community organizers who see I wish to build a future with them as equals.


My presence in their spaces isn’t always handled tactfully: In a meeting with a local congressman to discuss justice for murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, I was introduced with the phrase “we have a Jew” by one of the meeting’s organizers. I was never given a chance to speak.

On the ground, for many Palestinians, the only relationships they form with Jews are with the settlers who spit on them and steal their land, soldiers who arrest them and drone pilots who bomb them. Children are arrested as young as 5, and Palestinians arrested in the West Bank do not receive due process under the law.

In Israel, ethnic supremacy defines the political culture. Polling has shown majorities of Israeli children 15 to 18 are unwilling to share a classroom with an Arab person and do not believe Arabs should enjoy equal rights.

Palestinian children who are loved and cherished by their Jewish neighbors will not grow up to commit violent acts that only bring about trauma, not liberation.

Going door-to-door, as Hamas did, with rockets, and setting fire to houses, is disgusting.

Israeli politicians clamoring for a “second Nakba,” when roughly 75% of the Palestinian population was expelled in 1948, are awful.

Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video on X Monday of a building in Gaza being bombed with the caption “Israel will win.” Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant stated: “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza strip.

There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals.”

I have had conversations with Palestinian friends about the phrase “ Itbah Al-Yahud” (Kill the Jew)” which is modeled after the “Kill the Boer” chants in South Africa, referring to white farmers. It’s worth noting that this chant has rightly been condemned as hate speech by post-apartheid South African courts.

Can I, as a Jewish person, stand in solidarity with or support people who want a future where I am dead? I’ve been told that “they don’t really mean it” and given other excuses, but how do I square that with Hamas’ actions this past week? Palestinians have work to do within their own community, both for the sake of their own liberation as well as for the sake of Jewish safety and coexistence, in a future together.

I’ve had conversations with prominent Palestinian activists who have told me blatantly that antisemitism (which is widespread and growing) within their community is justifiable. It’s not; it leads to this, and it needs to be addressed just as ruthlessly as Jewish supremacist narratives.

Jewish communities must stop denying the Nakba and the need for just reconciliation. Jewish communities must stop asserting their own privilege and right to the land in Israel over that of Palestinian refugees. It’s our job, where we are privileged, to make sure others are not dispossessed as a direct result. The existence of a “Jewish State” cannot come with the condemnation of Palestinians as second-class people.

To be clear: Palestinians are not obligated to normalize groups that openly support their oppression such as AIPAC. It is imperative that they study the narratives of Jewish scholars and activists who fight for liberation, from Anne Frank to Dennis Goldberg to Arik Ascherman.

Vague notions of “allyship” cannot supersede the humanity of Israelis taken hostage who will face trauma for the rest of their lives.

I have, multiple times, been the only young Jewish activist to attend lobbying efforts with American Muslims for Palestine. My hope is that my Palestinian friends respect and observe Jewish mourning at this time as well.

We must be kind to people, and ruthless against oppression. There is work to do.

Nathan Feldman ( ) is a Jewish activist based in Montgomery County.